Spotted On Bedford Avenue: The Charleston Gets DOH’ed

July 6, 2011 by
Filed under: 11211, Williamsburg, Williamsburg Brooklyn 

Today yours truly noticed something amiss while strolling down Bedford Avenue. Namely, the absence of of the Charleston’s rather capacious sidewalk seating. Intrigued, I went in for a closer look.

Curiosity piqued, I checked out the Department of Health’s web site upon arriving home. I found no mention of fruit flies whatsoever. No worries, gentle readers, our intrepid civil servants found plenty of other (rather disturbing) items for your delectation last month*. I have taken the liberty of bold-facing my personal favorite.

1) Raw, cooked or prepared food is adulterated, contaminated, cross-contaminated, or not discarded in accordance with HACCP plan.
2) Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.
3) Personal cleanliness inadequate. Outer garment soiled with possible contaminant. Effective hair restraint not worn in an area where food is prepared.
4) Food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.
5) Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowing vermin to exist.
6) Covered garbage receptacle not provided or inadequate, except that garbage receptacle may be uncovered during active use. Garbage storage area not properly constructed or maintained; grinder or compactor dirty.
7) Pesticide use not in accordance with label or applicable laws. Prohibited chemical used/stored. Open bait station used.
8) Plumbing not properly installed or maintained; anti-siphonage or backflow prevention device not provided where required; equipment or floor not properly drained; sewage disposal system in disrepair or not functioning properly.

UPDATE, July 7, 2011: Here’s the latest per the Department of Health

UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.: I have word that the Charleston is back open and fruit fly free! (See comments)

Miss Heather

*Special thanks goes out to the manager of this establishment for this clarification! (see comments)


15 Comments on Spotted On Bedford Avenue: The Charleston Gets DOH’ed

  1. judes on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 6:20 pm
  2. It looked like the Bahn Mi place and Ella cafe also got shut down for a little while yesterday. Both were up and running again today.

  3. missheather on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 6:31 pm
  4. It would appear Veracruz got shut down for a whopping (but hardly record-breaking) 66 points. Now that’s shocking!

  5. Shilo on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 7:15 pm
  6. Hi Heather,
    I manage the Charleston and the inspection items you mention above are not from yesterday’s inspection that shut us down. Those were from an inspection clearly marked on the DOH website as 06/08/2011 as in JUNE 8, 2011.

    It should be noted that item #3 that you red highlighted? Person hygeine not up to scratch? The pizza cook had sauce spilled on his shirt. Yes really. I know you have no reason to believe me, but you can see a touch of the extent of the ridiculousness of that particular inspector’s pickpantyness when you notice in the “other items” section on the same 06.08.11 report “Operator failed to make good faith effort to inform smokers of the Smoke-free Act prohibition of smoking.” this specifically is in respect to people smoking OUTSIDE the bar.Did you know it’s illegal to smoke under an overhang? We didn’t, and when my bartender didn’t warn the patrons in our outdoor seating area to stop, we got points for it. As a person who fucking hates cigarette smoke, I don’t even let my bartenders smoke inside after closing.

    Anyway, the current report that shut us down hasn’t been posted yet. I’d scan a copy to share, but I’ve already submitted it to the owners. We got a couple of nicks that were legit – they found some mouse droppings in our basement, the ice machine had some junk in the bottom of the bin, and they found a stash of straws and bottle caps and such under one of the work sinks behind the bar, but I believe well over half of the points we received on our most current inspection (July 5, 2011) were for fruit flies. Check back to the DOH website over the next few days, I’m sure it will be posted soon. You’ll see that the items that are grossing you out from previous inspections are not mentioned.

    I’ll totally concede that we had a lot of fruit flies in the bar. Not a ton, but a lot. I’m pretty sure the report that shut us down cited 200 fruit flies, which, frankly isn’t that many when you’re talking tiny insects. I’ve worked (and drank!) in many other neighborhood bars that have WAYYY worse problems.

    Perhaps check those dates before you jump to conclusions next time eh? We aren’t liars, we seriously just have fruit flies.

  7. missheather on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 7:19 pm
  8. So this is this Charleston’s second inspection in as many months? Fascinating. Nonetheless thanks for the fact-checking, I will update my post accordingly!

  9. Shilo on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 7:35 pm
  10. Yeah, when they first rolled out the letter-grade system at the start of the year they originally said all businesses that got an A wouldn’t be reinspected for a year and we wouldn’t have to pay the fines on our points (I believe our A was 6 points – I’m pretty sure you can have up to 15 to receive an A).
    Well, it seems the city lost a lot of money on that – yesterday’s inspector told me they recently redrafted the law for all businesses with an A grade to be reinspected every 6 months and any business with a B or C to be reinspected every 3-6 months. Also, obviously, you gotta pay all the fines on your points now even if you get an A.

    I’m all for sanitary conditions in food-serving establishments and holding places accountable but the fact that a business can request reinspections as many times as they wish (paying for the points notes each time) means big corporate restuarants with lots of money can afford to reinspect again and again until they pass (or get a lenient inspector) while a smaller family-owned business must suck it up and take the hit in sales that comes with a B or C or somehow pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for things like shelves that are 5.75″ inches off the ground, instead of the required 6″ or the critical violation of not having a staff person on who has taken the DOH’s very time consuming food protection course which is only available online on their website that crashes like crazy (all of my staff have it, but still. please. To call it a CRITICAL violation is hyperbole to the max). They way the city is running it now it’s about raising money, not sanitary conditions. Ask anyone working in the service industry right now and they’ll agree.

    Anyway, I’m done ranting. Thanks for the correction.

  11. mcgolrickheights on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 7:40 pm
  12. DOH has no consistency, so it makes it difficult to ever believe what they are saying or doing. The most disgusting nasty ass chinese restaurant in Greenpoint has one of those big “A”s in the window and there’s no way thaty’s accurate.

  13. missheather on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 8:04 pm
  14. This is very interesting stuff— and I do not necessarily disagree with you that this could be a nice little revenue generator for the city (just look at how they are under-funding and monetizing our parks) and the “little guy” will be hit hardest. But I feel compelled to ask (and please do not take the following as being impertinent, I am simply asking a question): it is my understanding that the owner of the Charleston in fact owns and/or has a financial interest in a fair number of watering holes in our fair city.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong. I really value your input. Providing a forum to discuss matters such as this is a large part of, if not the primary reason why I run this site!

  15. Shilo on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 9:26 pm
  16. Your query as to just how little-guy the Charleston is isn’t impertinent at all.

    I don’t know all the specifics of the ownership (I basically just manage the staff and deal with orders, events, health inspections etc) but the Charleston is owned by a number of people. I know of at least four people with financial interests in the bar (there may be more, I don’t really care enough to ask). One of those people also has financial interests in a number of other bars in the city. Some of them, he owns a major stake, some, his contribution is quite small. Clearly, his love of the free-pizza scheme is apparent in a few of the bars he invests in. To call them all “his” is vastly overstating.
    Like I said, I don’t really bother myself with the specifics of who owns how much but I can tell you that the guy with investments in tons of places is not the owner who runs the Charleston on a day-to-day basis. HE may have a decent income from his stakes in establishments (again, don’t know/care for sure but duh), but his partners often only have the one and those bars are their livelihoods.

    Judging from past places of employment, this is a pretty normal model of ownership for small neighborhood locals.

    An aside: while preparing for our reinspection today so we can open back up, various neighborhod bartenders stopped by to talk shop on the new inspection picky points (there are totally trends in what they look for) and the word on the street is the DOH is targeting places that the city thinks can “take it” financially. Clearly I have no idea if that’s true, but it’s interesting to wonder if they do have some sort of strategy for inspecting seeing as how certain places, the Charleston included, get inspected all the damn time, while others still haven’t even gotten their initial letter-grade inspection.

  17. Shilo on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 9:30 pm
  18. And a right on to commenter mcgolrickheights. The Chinese food place across the street from my house has an A and I’ve seen rats WALKING OUT THEIR DOOR. Probably not a big deal though since I’m pretty sure the restaurant is more about numbers or drugs or some other illicit something than it is about Chinese food.

    THAT is another story though. 🙂

  19. missheather on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 10:05 pm
  20. But are the Charleston’s sidewalk tables legal? You strike me as being on top of stuff there— BIG TIME— and I do not see anything in the way of a permit posted.

  21. eagle_teater on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 10:59 pm
  22. Unless The Charleston has changed hands, it is owned by the dude that owns about 15 bars in B’Burg including The Abbey, Alligator and a shit load of others I can’t remember right now. At one point they owned the Greenpoint Alligator Lounge, now Lulu’s.

  23. missheather on Wed, 6th Jul 2011 11:14 pm
  24. I think Sugarland might be one of theirs/his as well.

  25. Shilo on Thu, 7th Jul 2011 3:26 pm
  26. Heather – our sidewalk cafe IS legal. You can actually (kinda) see our permit for it in the photo you took featuring the passer-by wearing a red shirt. It’s a bit obscured by the reflection of the U-haul, but there it’s a big-ass white laminated sign that explicitly depicts the terms of our sidewalk cafe license (# of tables, chairs, sq feet and such).

    eagle_teater and missheather – The investor in question, (his first name is John, I don’t know his last name) has interests in, to my count, 9 bars in north Brooklyn: Charleston, Abbey, Alligator, lulu’s (yes, still), Macri Park, Trash bar, The cove, sugarland, and metropolitan. He’s also got a stake in Crocodile on 14th street, and I hear he’s got a place down the jersey shore. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, to call him the owner of all those bars is crazy overstating. In the case of Metropolitan and Sugarland, if anyone is going to get the title of Owner, it’s Troy, who (I’m almost positive) owns the lions share of the stake and actually runs the bars.

  27. Shilo on Thu, 7th Jul 2011 3:29 pm
  28. Also, yay! We’re back open! And now with 100% fewer fruit flies.

  29. missheather on Thu, 7th Jul 2011 3:37 pm
  30. 100% fewer fruits flies = awesome! 🙂

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